Rookie center Colin Baxter’s tenure with the New York Jets is over.
For now, at least.
With All-Pro center Nick Mangold playing well in the three games since his return a high ankle sprain, the Jets have decided to waive Baxter, suggesting they are confident in Mangold’s playing status going forward.
Mangold, who is widely regarded around the league as the game’s best at his position, suffered the high ankle sprain in the Jets’ Week 2 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Already without top reserve lineman Robert Turner, who broke his leg and is on IR, the Jets were left with the rookie Baxter as the only center on the roster.
Baxter was claimed off waivers by the Jets in September, having spent his training camp with the San Diego Chargers after going undrafted out of the University of Arizona.
Mangold, who had not missed a start in his NFL career dating back to 2006, played through serious pain to return in Week 5 against the New England Patriots, but the Jets nevertheless suffered their third straight loss.
Mangold’s looked stronger with each game, aside from his uncharacteristic three penalties last week. The Week 8 bye will give him some much needed rest and more time for his ankle to heal.
In the three games since Mangold returned to the lineup, Mark Sanchez has thrown 6 touchdown passes and only 1 interception, as the Jets’ offensive line is beginning to gel after a shaky start to the year.
Ironically, it was Mangold’s holding penalty that nullified a Sanchez touchdown pass last Sunday, and Sanchez would throw that lone interception just two plays later.
The Jets are clearly confident that their starting five of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Matt Slauson, Mangold, Brandon Moore and Wayne Hunter will be play good football as a unit, even with Mangold and Moore not 100% yet.
Slauson, the starting left guard, will be the second-string center for now, and second year guard/tackle Vladimir Ducasse would enter at left guard if the situation called for Slauson to move to center.
The Jets have experimented with the Ferguson-Ducasse-Slauson-Moore-Hunter alignment before, for a couple of drives in Baltimore and also to rest Mangold in the fourth quarter of their Week 6 win over the Miami Dolphins.
In the three games since Mangold’s return, Colin Baxter was a healthy inactive in all of them, so the Jets clearly have a lot of confidence in Mangold’s durability and Slauson’s ability to help out in a pinch.
Ducasse, meanwhile, has gotten game reps as an extra offensive lineman the past few weeks in the jumbo set, and the Jets clearly trust Ducasse-Slauson than Slauson-Baxter next to D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
If Baxter clears waivers, there’s a very good chance that the Jets will add him to the practice squad and continue to develop him.
But as of Wednesday morning, Baxter is no longer on the active roster.
Update: Baxter has decided to re-sign with the Chargers’ practice squad after clearing waivers as of Thursday morning.
The Jets also released offensive lineman Matt Kroul, a converted defensive lineman, from their practice squad.
Update: Kroul is expected to be re-signed to the practice squad following Baxter’s departure.